Part 2 has taken a while to produce - the reason is that in this part I want to write about the positive side of living alone, and I haven't been feeling that positive about it, which makes it hard to write enthusiastically about! Nevertheless, I have done such a lot since I was widowed - many things through necessity, but many also because I no longer need to answer to anyone else. And that's the rub - being widowed ISN'T all bad. That knowledge brings with it a whole new bundle of guilt, but that's another post.
Where to start - well, I've just moved house, let's start there. For the first time in my life, I have chosen a house just for me, no compromises, no negotiations, and I've arranged it the way I want, and that is completely new for me. It's a funny thing to think that my student son has had more independence in his few years since leaving home than I have in my fifty years. In fact, I sometimes feel as though I am just starting out on on my life as an adult. I went straight from parental home to married home and never even went through the student-flat phase, as I lived at home when I was at University.
And settling in to this house HAS been an adventure. I've arranged things the way I want, got rid of all sorts of baggage, literal and emotional and, for the first time, I feel that I am in a house that reflects my personality. That can't be a bad thing.
Moving house has been a big thing but life alone is filled with hundreds of little delights, from having your bedroom at the temperature that suits you, to eating what and when you like.
And with the new year, another good thing about being alone occurs to me. Yesterday I phoned a widowed friend to have a chat and to wish her a happy new year. We talked for twenty minutes or so. I am only too aware that if I was still married I would probably never have picked up the phone. Why not? Well, for several reasons. The first is that we would probably never have met. She was a distant neighbour who I didn't know when she knocked at my door a week or so after the Golfer died. She introduced herself, refused to come in and said merely that she herself had been widowed three months previously, that she lived at the top of the hill and that if I ever needed help or just to talk, she was there. I was so touched by this kindness from a stranger and over the years since then our friendship gradually developed. Until recently, we had never been in each other's houses, we merely chatted and compared notes as we passed on the road. A few months ago she called me and asked me for some help with her computer and our acquaintance developed into a friendship.
So when New Year approached, I thought of her, especially as the weather has been pretty extreme up there in the Highlands, and called her. She was delighted to hear from me and our conversation cheered us both, I think. I felt better both for brightening her day and for the mutual support we offered. Now, the point of this is that if I had still been a married woman, not only would I never have met her, but that even if we had met, I probably simply wouldn't think of staying in touch. This has been the case for most of the friendships that I have developed over the last four years. Before, when I was a wife and mother, I didn't need girlfriends. I had a few 'coffee' friends - women I liked who I would meet for coffee and gossip once a month or so - but I would never think of talking about anything too personal with them, and I wouldn't need to call on them if I had a problem because I had a husband to fix everything in my life.
The nature of friendship I will keep for another blog post but suffice it to say that I may NEED friends now in a way that I have never done before but that need has developed some genuine and deep friendships that will last a lifetime. It sounds like a trivial thing to say, but it's a sign of the change in my life to say that I get more Christmas cards and birthday cards now than I ever did before I was widowed. When I go to sleep at night, my thoughts are jam-packed with all the people I care about. Before, it was just the Golfer and my son, and that was about it.
I have only scraped the surface of the benefits of living alone, and I expect I'll come back to the topic and express myself a little better than I have done here but let me finish with one thought about a particular problem of being widowed which may make it more difficult to celebrate life alone. One of the most important weapons in defeating difficult times in your life is defiance. "Living well is the best revenge" is a great maxim to live by if you had parents who abused you, if you are made redundant or if your spouse runs away with the postwoman. Putting a smile on your face and trying to use that adversity to recreate a better life, even if at first it's only in defiance to the bastards who have screwed you, is a great way to deal with life's big stresses. However, when you are widowed, it is difficult to adopt this attitude (I'm not expressing myself well here but I hope I'm getting my meaning across - I'll try to write it better one day!) I have heard people say that losing their job, or even getting a serious illness like cancer, was the best thing that ever happened to them, because it transformed their lives. It is VERY difficult to say that in relation to the death of your spouse. In fact, it is unacceptable to say that publicly, even if it's true. Can you imagine what people would say if you came out with the line "Ah yes, the Golfer's death was the best thing that ever happened to me". And yet, that is the task we are faced with when our partners die. If the Golfer had walked out on me, I would have said "The Golfer walking out on me was the best thing that ever happened to me" with gusto and would have been determined to make the rest of my life as good as possible, if only to stick it to him. But he didn't walk out on me, he died on me, and I find it almost impossible to suggest out loud (even if I think it sometimes) that I am having a happier life BECAUSE he died.
I think that adds an element of difficulty to the widowed person's job of rebuilding their lives. So, for those of you out there in the same boat as me, go easy on yourselves, you are making progress, and you will be happy again. Happy New Year to all you Rosehips and Prunes out there and I wish you all a wonderful 2010!
Rosehip Or Prune used to be about life after losing a spouse. It came about from my own experience of being widowed at 47, in the same month that my only child left home to go to University. But that was ten years ago. Now it's about dating, and new relationships, getting older and making sense of the world. Welcome! Join in!